Erlanger president and CEO Jim Brexler is engaged to marry the daughter of one of the hospital’s top officials — a union that has prompted hospital officials to make personnel changes that ensure compliance with the hospital’s nepotism policy.
Mr. Brexler will wed Kelly Fisher — daughter of Erlanger Vice President of Governmental and Community Affairs Doug Fisher — on Aug. 23. Because of the marriage, Mr. Fisher no longer will answer to Mr. Brexler, as he has for the past year and a half, but will report to the hospital’s new chief legal officer, Dale Hetzler, hospital officials said.
“To the extent that people would be concerned about a father-in-law having a direct report (to Mr. Brexler), that is the very reason you want to put those kinds of protections in place,” said Aldous McCrory, vice chairman of Erlanger’s board of trustees and vice president of legal services for EPB.
The change means Mr. Brexler will not be in conflict with the hospital’s nepotism policy when he marries Ms. Fisher, a constituent services representative in the Chattanooga office of Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. The hospital’s policy mandates that no Erlanger employees will be supervised by a relative, said Gregg Gentry, senior vice president of human resources.
Mr. Fisher has reported directly to Mr. Brexler since February 2007, when David Lewis, Erlanger’s former chief legal officer, left the hospital. Mr. Hetzler reports to Mr. Brexler and the hospital’s board of executives, officials said.
Mr. Brexler emphasized that, though he began spending time with Ms. Fisher and developing a friendship with her before her father’s promotion and raise in December, their rapport did not become a “dating” relationship until early 2008.
Mr. Fisher has worked for the hospital full time since the start of 2007. In December, he was promoted from senior director of governmental and community affairs to a vice president role, a change that came with a salary increase of nearly $20,000 annually.
Dr. Charles Longer, chairman of Erlanger’s board of trustees, said that, despite some gossip about the situation, he sees no evidence of favoritism at play.
“Certainly I knew that rumors and gossip would come out of this sort of thing, but we don’t run our hospital on rumors and gossip. We run it on objective information,” he said. “To me there is no evidence of nepotism and there’s no legal violations, so there’s nothing for any complaint to stand on.”
Mr. Fisher’s qualifications and accomplishments for the hospital — such as helping to orchestrate President Bush’s 2007 visit there as well as securing permanent Medicaid disproportionate share funding for Erlanger — make him well deserving of his promotion, Mr. Brexler said.
“The resume of performance of Doug Fisher is stellar and has been stellar, and so that stands on its own,” he said.
Mr. Brexler said that he acted conscientiously when navigating a potentially problematic situation with Ms. Fisher and her father, going out of his way to ensure he’d be in compliance with hospital rules.
“I handled that scenario as appropriately as I possibly could,” he said. “I would never have written the script this way. ... But I am thrilled that I am blessed to have a wonderful person that has come into my life, and I am proud of the way in which I’ve handled the (situation) and the decisions that have been made.”
Health care reporter Emily Bregel has worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press since July 2006. She previously covered banking and wrote for the Life section. Emily, a native of Baltimore, Md., earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Columbia University. She received a first-place award for feature writing from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Contest for a 2009 article about a boy with a congenital heart defect. She ...